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May 22, 2021
Event Tips

5 Ideas for Event Planners Transitioning from Virtual to Hybrid Events and Platforms

5 Ideas for Event Planners Transitioning from Virtual to Hybrid Events and Platforms

If you’ve worked as an event planner over the past year, you might want to schedule a check-up with your doctor: you could have whiplash. From tried-and-true in-person event strategies to rapidly adapting to virtual events to now, the elusive hybrid event? It’s enough to make your head spin. But hybrid events are here to stay, and with 25% of event pros saying they plan on hosting 5-10 hybrid events per year going forward, you might find yourself organizing one sooner rather than later.

It can be tough to plan an event with one foot online and one foot in the real world. How do you run two successful events at once? Where do the in-person and virtual components overlap? What platforms can you use to prepare both elements of a hybrid event without worrying about compatibility?

Slow down, and brace for impact: transitioning from virtual events to hybrid events doesn’t have to send you spiraling. In this post, we offer tips to help you make the transition from virtual to hybrid events nice and easy.

1. Keep Hybrid Events Simple

Choosing the right hybrid format can be overwhelming when you’ve gotten in the groove of virtual events. With so many different hybrid event formats (see our 4 recommendations), from the super-involved to the pretty hands-off, where do you start? What combination of in-person and online experiences will make the transition easiest? How can you still reach and engage a large audience after becoming accustomed to a virtual event strategy?

When transitioning your virtual event into a hybrid event, start simple. Consider using a hybrid event format that allows you to host an in-person event and an online event at separate times.

A platform like PheedLoop supports this with features like keeping your event available for free for many months, free streaming of simulive and on-demand content, and more. The benefits here are twofold: you reduce the stress of trying to run two unique events at once, and your event will still achieve your hybrid goals. Separating your on-site and virtual event components takes the stress out of attempting to actively host attendees in both modes, untangling the web of venue requirements and streaming capabilities that would have you scrambling day-of. And with this format, you still get to reach a vast audience, positively engage with your attendees and get people talking about your brand, no matter if they’re tuning in from home or attending live.

A hybrid event doesn’t have to be flashy, complex or ultra-high budget to be effective. Build your confidence with a simple hybrid event that separates the in-person and the online, and use what you learned to tackle more involved hybrid formats at your next event.

2. Don’t Force the Hybrid

If you do end up choosing a hybrid event format that has on-site and virtual elements occurring at the same time (an in-person panel being broadcast to at-home viewers, or a networking event that matches both live and online attendees, for example), forcing a cookie-cutter hybrid event will work against you. Resist the urge to copy-paste your on-site agenda to your virtual experience; don’t expect what works in the convention center to work over a video call.

It’s difficult to exactly replicate your in-person experience for online attendees, and vice versa.

The truth is that on-site and virtual events are both great, but for different reasons; on-site events are experiential and foster connections, and virtual events are prime for education, outreach and cost-effective programming.

While both work in concert as part of hybrid event formats, hybrid events shouldn’t be treated like a monolith. What worked perfectly for your solely virtual event probably won’t be the most intuitive when you throw on-site elements back into the mix.

In short: don’t force the hybrid. Treat your on-site event as an on-site event, and your virtual event as a virtual event. Use your in-person event to engage and entertain your guests, to keep them talking about the amazing experience they had, and use your virtual event to reach new audiences with educational content about your brand. As mentioned earlier, keeping your hybrid event strategy simple and discrete will help a smooth transition back into the world of in-real-life events.

3. Focus On the On-Site and In-Person Experience

We mentioned that in-person events are the best way to engage audiences in an experiential, hands-on way, compared to the more informational angle taken by some virtual events. A great way to transition to a hybrid event format is to embrace the experience!

You may be used to virtual events that are no-nonsense, heavy on the pitch and light on attendee engagement. Now that your audience can access virtual events in the comfort of their own home for a fraction of the price of attending events live and in-person, why would you charge your on-site attendees for the same programming? Hybrid events are moving in a direction where the big draw is the experience -- something that you can’t get by logging onto a webinar.

An on-site experience can take many forms, but the key is actively hosting your attendees. This could look like interactive exhibits, live entertainment, giveaways for guests or designated networking opportunities.

Don’t just regurgitate the same talks attendees could access from home, that era of events is reaching its end.

When transitioning to hybrid events from an all-virtual strategy, focusing your virtual event on content and your on-site event on experience will make your next trade show or conference unique, well-rounded and a must-attend event.

4. Choose a Hybrid-Equipped Venue

So, you’ve decided to dive head-first into your first hybrid event. You have spectacular plans for your on-site attendees and know that your virtual component will draw big numbers. To make sure your chosen hybrid event format goes off without a hitch, you need a venue that can handle both your in-person and online plans.

First, tech. You should be looking for venues that have a strong enough tech infrastructure to  keep you up and running. Beyond the basic requirements for hosting guest speakers, equipping vendor booths and setting up check-in kiosks, hybrid events require venues that can handle virtual event components as well. When checking out a venue, look for these things:

  • Does their internet connection provide a high enough upload speed for broadcasting?
  • Do they have production facilities with specialty streaming capabilities?
  • Does the venue have contract flexibility in the event that you need to add a feature or service that isn’t included in your initial booking?

And, with COVID-19 still a major concern for event organizers, making sure your hybrid event venue is able to handle in-person attendees safely should be a priority. Take the following hygiene needs into consideration when deciding on a venue:

  • Do they have specific sanitization protocols?
  • What COVID-19 precautions is the venue taking? Do they require guests to wear masks, socially distance, take temperature checks, etc.?
  • What is their in-person capacity?

A venue that can handle both your technological and health and safety requirements is a great choice for a hybrid event, paving the way for a comfortable transition into the world of hybrid experiences.

5. Invest in the Best Hybrid Event Platform

Ultimately, when it comes to event management, you can’t do it all yourself. Investing in a robust event management platform is one of the simplest things you can do to protect yourself from the hybrid scaries. And choosing a platform that specializes in hybrid events, like PheedLoop, will really set you up for success.

Like we discussed, what worked for your virtual events in the past might not cut it for the hybrid events of the future. The best event management platforms should offer a few key features that effortlessly bridge the gap between in-person and online attendees:

  • Analytics and reporting. Can your platform track in-person attendee session check-ins, online session streams, time spent at both on-site and virtual booths? Check out how PheedLoop’s SmartSight analytics work for hybrid events.
  • Content strategy. If a goal is to engage your virtual viewers, make sure your platform can handle ample streaming options, from live broadcasts to Q&As to breakout rooms.
  • Networking capabilities. Trade shows, conferences and annual meetings are huge networking opportunities -- why make it accessible only to on-site attendees? A platform that connects your in-person and virtual audiences with chat or matchmaking functionalities will impress.  
  • Branding. Does your platform allow customization? Giving each step of the event process a personalized look should be simple, intuitive and create a specific experience for your guests.

A great event management platform is key to nailing your next hybrid event. Do your research to make sure your platform can rise to the occasion.

Conclusion

Planning a hybrid event doesn’t have to send you reeling. No matter what the event world throws at you, understanding how virtual and in-person events can work together will help you create a great hybrid event. By keeping your strategy simple and choosing venues and platforms that make hybrids a breeze, you’ll be prepared for whatever hybrid formats the next year throws at you

Ready to start planning your next hybrid event? See how PheedLoop makes hybrid events easy.

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PheedLoop is an all-in-one event management platform for live, virtual and hybrid events. Our platform powers events for associations, corporations, agencies, educational institutions and governments worldwide including Shopify, Government of Canada, American Society of Mechanical Engineers, IBM and more. We commit ourselves to being a highly product focused company, and are dedicated to releasing new features and product updates every week since our founding in 2015. We post regular updates like this one to our blog.

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